Speaking of (and to) the Trumbull Town Council

Vicki Tesoro
Vicki Tesoro
A resolution allowing a public comment section at Town Council meetings has been referred for further study.

The council traditionally has not had a public speaking section except during public hearings, but Councilwoman Vicki Tesoro said many hearings are held in committee meetings and not attended by the public. 

"We should encourage public participation," Tesoro said. The council "has an obligation to welcome and listen to our residents."

Concerns were raised about the proposal by some members of the Council's Legislation and Administration Committee, such as lengthening council meetings.

Longer meetings could result in increased costs from department heads and attorneys staying late, in addition to the possibility of "grandstanding." But speakers could be limited to three minutes and be prohibited from repeating other speakers.

According to L & A minutes, Tesoro said the Town Council is the "body of the people and should allow for them to speak. The Town Council delivers services to youth, families and seniors, ensures public satety and security, and promotes participation on boards, commissions and committees."

Other council members noted that large amounts of people may come out once in a while for hot topics, but public speaking at the Council is usually low.

Other towns such as Monroe and Westport, and Trumbull's Board of Education, offer a public speaking session, Tesoro said.

Council Chairman Carl Massaro Jr. noted that he has been discussing with the town IT department giving each council member a town email address. He added that much of the town's business involves public matters such as the budget, all ordinances, some grants and some state laws.

In the end, Council Vice Chairwoman Suzanne Testani moved to send the resolution back to committee. 

"I do see that it does have merit," Testani said.

Christopher Wendt January 09, 2014 at 05:09 PM
Public comment periods are very beneficial, and it is hard to imagine a properly functioning public Board of any kind not having such an accommodation. Most to which I am accustomed have rules, such as time limits per speaker; a requirement that each speaker identify himself by name, address, and affiliation; that speakers direct remarks only to the Board (Council) and must not direct any remarks to, at, or about other speakers or audience members. Speakers should not anticipate or become entitled to any response other than perhaps a polite "thank you" upon concluding their remarks. Most importantly, speakers may not discuss personal or other confidential issues before the Board during the comment section, and it would be appropriate for the Board to immediately curtail a public comment session if a number of speakers persisted in raising confidential matters, publicly. Second-most importantly, NO PUBLIC COMMENTS should ever be entered into the minutes of the Board (Council) meetings, since commenters are not official participants in the business of the Board and no official Board action is taken on any public comment. The names (only) of public commenters may be entered into the minutes, as appearances without further qualification; the Board should remain consistent in this. ..................................................................................................... The email address issue is fraught with danger. Based on my experience, I recommend that if there is to be email communication facilitated there should be a single address (e.g. TownBoard@trumbull.gov) which would re-direct all incoming emails to each member of the Board. Board members should refrain from responding to emails unless there is a consensus concerning what the response should be, but generally, no responses should be forthcoming as a general practice. An auto-acknowledgement may be generated, if this is done for each and every email received. Consideration is due for the fact that Board (Council) members did not sign-on to be reading and answering hundreds of unsolicited emails at all hours and days, and most members are not authorized (as individuals) to act upon many of the types of issues which will come in by email. In short, I believe the email concept is generally a bad idea. A really bad idea.
Pam Georgas January 10, 2014 at 08:31 AM
We vote for TC district reps, so how would one contact them to discuss a concern or issue, if there is no contact info available, and they are not allowed to address them during public comments? Some reps have district meetings to allow an opportunity for their constituents to discuss issues, but not all do. If I remember correctly it was once stated that the number of emails received by TC members by residents is low. What is the point of having district reps, if they are not allowed to discuss concerns directly with the people they represent?
Vito Moscato January 10, 2014 at 10:21 AM
http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/content/10623/10657/11225/default.aspx - go to this page on the town web site for contact information.
Pam Georgas January 10, 2014 at 10:32 AM
I know there are contacts listed now, but the gentleman above is strongly suggesting that individual email and communications not be encouraged or allowed. So I was questioning how residents would be represented by their district reps, if they were not allowed to contact and discuss issues directly with them. TC is unique from other boards in that you vote only for candidates in your district to represent you. Although I personally feel most issues effect the entire town, our system is set up by district representation, which only allows us to vote for some of our town council reps., so therefor they should be allowed to have direct conversations with the people they represent.
Thomas Tesoro January 10, 2014 at 10:33 AM
The public should be permitted to speak at every Council or Board meeting. Few do but that does not change the fact that this should be available to every Citizen of Trumbull. Those that voted against this in Committee show distain for their constituents. If hearing the public lengthens the meetings that is tough. If you find it inconvenient to listen to the public then quit. Finally, the Board of Education only allows two minutes..that is too short. It should be a minimum of three minutes. Also the Republican Town Council (the last one) showed so little regard for the public that they held the public hearing the night of the vote for redistricting. Of the 13 speakers 12 spoke against it and one in favor. They passed it anyway. Thanks to Councilwoman Tesoro (my wife) for fighting for the people instead of the Party.


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